As Congress holds panicked hearings to figure out what to do about the oil crisis--and, yes, it's now a full-blown crisis--it's worth stepping back and asking who really is most to blame. The answer shouldn't surprise anyone: George W. Bush.
True, the US blew its first opportunity to assemble an intelligent energy policy a quarter-century ago, when the 1970's oil crisis eased and early forays into sustainable energy were abandoned with the return to $20 oil. But by the end of the Clinton administration, the country was, slowly but surely, headed in the right direction again.
A Gore administration would have had to go far further--increasing incentives for the private sector to develop sustainable energy technologies, decreasing or eliminating incentives to waste energy, offering tax breaks for efficient cars, etc. But it seems safe to assume that President Gore wouldn't have ignored the conclusions of the 2005 Hirsch Report and hundreds of other early warning signs, all of which suggested that today's crisis was inevitable.
By the way, the author of the Hirsch report, Robert Hirsch, stopped by CNBC yesterday to update his conclusions. You can read his remarks here, but here's a summary:
* The problem is massive.
* New technologies that can extract oil from sand, etc., will take at least 10-20 years to bring to full-scale production (and, therefore, begin to alleviate the crisis)
* Get ready for $15 gas (yes, $15), oil rationing, and crippled economies.
Meanwhile, the best responses our government (including the Dems) has come up with are 1) suing OPEC, 2) regulating commodities traders to deter "speculation", 3) drilling in ANWR, 4) begging OPEC to open taps, 5) offering tax breaks for folks who buy 6,000+ pound cars.
Should we lay all this at Bush's feet? Not all, but most. With respect to energy policy, the Bush administration's free-market gospel has, at best, caused us to lose another 8 years that could have been spent encouraging the private sector and American citizens to solve this problem. Oil is a finite resource, and the majority of it is under the control of people who hate our guts. So it's hard to argue that the current situation was unforeseeable.
Combine $130 oil--sorry, $132, up $2 since I started writing--with Iraq, government-sponsored torture, alienation of the rest of the world, and all those other Bush administration contributions to U.S. national pride, and the Worst President Ever argument gets stronger all the time.